5 Ways to Improve Your Financial Knowledge

Celebrate Financial Literacy Month by boosting your money know-how.

American Cash And Coins
Getty ImagesWant to get a better grasp on personal finance? Check out free workshops offered by your local library and online college courses.
By Jennifer Calonia

Tax season can be a painful reminder of how adequately (or inadequately) you tracked and budgeted your lifestyle the previous year. Knowing how to set up budgets, goals and financial processes isn't only handy for filing taxes -- it's a lifelong skill you'll need year after year to remain financially strong.

But you don't have to be a certified financial planner to understand the basics of personal finance. In fact, there are a multitude of free resources available to help you expand your financial know-how. In celebration of National Financial Literacy month, here are a few ideas:

1. Visit your public library. Your local library is a hub of all kinds of information, including educational personal finance workshops. Public libraries across the country have stepped it up when it comes to educating their local communities, from the Affordable Care Act to helping people balance a checkbook.

For example, the Kansas City Public Library system is hosting Money Smart Month throughout April. One workshop held this week called "Teens and Money" taught young attendees about key financial concepts and saving money.
Free sessions like these are just some of the many workshops available throughout the country.

2. Find a powerful expert voice. Some of the most famous personal finance experts have achieved success only after experiencing a financial low. They're real people who have been there and done that, and have written extensively about the knowledge they gained the hard way.

Their struggles are manifest in insightful personal finance books about the best practices for managing money and planning for your future.

One example is Dave Ramsey, who coined the "7 Baby Steps" for getting out of debt in his book "The Total Money Makeover." These types of books offer a detailed look at financial remedies when challenges start to mount.

Similarly, planning ahead is equally important. Robert Kiyosaki, author of the "Rich Dad Poor Dad" series, shares how generating income through assets, such as real estate and rental properties, can help you achieve wealth in the future.

3. Take a college course. The word "college" might make you cringe by stirring up dollar signs in your mind. But not all college courses come at a price.

For example, the University of California-Irvine's Distance Learning Center provides the personal finance foundation you need to excel through an online learning platform. The free course, "Fundamentals of Personal Financial Planning," was developed by the learning center with the help of a grant from the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards. The course includes 22 lessons ranging from goal-setting to estate planning.

4. Stalk personal finance websites. More and more websites, on-air personalities and even the personal finance experts noted above have adapted social media into their outreach strategy. Follow or like your favorite finance gurus to get fresh tips on how to manage your money now and in the future.

Also, following the finance pages of news outlets on Facebook (FB) and Twitter (TWTR) can help you stay on top of current events and how they affect your wallet. By staying aware of financial news stories, you can apply this knowledge to your everyday life.

5. Get immersed in a TED talk. TED talks began as a discussion on innovation within the technology and science fields, but have since grown in scope to include topics ranging from music to money. While attending a TED conference can be financially daunting at $4,000 or more per attendee, hungry personal finance disciples can find thought-provoking finance lectures on ted.com.

This knowledge hub goes beyond humdrum personal finance topics by offering a fresh perspective on conventional advice. The concepts shared at TED talks might best serve someone who's well attuned to the basics of personal finance, but could be equally engaging for someone who's just starting with financial planning.

Whether you incorporate all of these resources into your personal finance repertoire or just one, you'll be closer to achieving tangible financial success by improving your financial literacy.

Jennifer Calonia writes for GoBankingRates.com, a source for online banking, the best CD rates, savings account rates, personal finance news and more.

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There are so many options when it comes to investing. It can get confusing really quickly, but you can find resources like http://www.mutualfundstore.com/investing-education to help you out. If you are just starting out, find a way to start small. Once you get a little more comfortable, then you can branch out. You also will want to consider any fees and charges you may have to pay and the risks your investments may face like market swings.

May 16 2014 at 1:12 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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April 21 2014 at 10:17 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The secret to having money is simple, don't spend it.

April 20 2014 at 5:42 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
David Huntington

I've got a less daunting method for increasing my financial knowledge. It's called reading. I never accept the word of anyone as gospel. Therefore you read as many articles on the subject and you decide what is best for you. There is no cookie cutter way to personal happiness and financial stability.

April 20 2014 at 3:45 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Don't take advice from a Democrat.

April 19 2014 at 4:38 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply

Honestly you don't need to pay for a college course to understand finances. You can learn a lot just by watching CNBC, experts like Suze Orman and Dave Ramsey tailor their shows for teaching people who do not have a financial background how to manage their own finances. The biggest lessons from the shows are pretty simple, and apply to everyone, and the messages from the two shows are the same. These are the lessons that apply to everyone.
1. Contribute to your 401k. You need to at least put away the maximum amount that your company will match (3-5% for most people) but they recommend higher amounts of about 10-15% of your pay.
2. DO NOT buy whole life insurance, it is a ripoff. If you have whole life insurance get rid of it. You can get the same coverage with term insurance for about $20 dollars a month from a place like Life Ant. You can also call prudential or gnworth or another company to speak with an agent. If you invest the difference in cost between the two you end up with way more money.
3. Most people need a revocable living trust. This allows a tax efficient transfer of assets if you pass away.
4. Do not spend more than 30% of your income on housing, ideally you should pay about 20-25%.
5. Buy your car, do not lease.
6. Save, Save, Save, do not spend money on irresponsible things.
It is not complicated to manage your finances, it just takes control. Don't waste money on expensive courses unless you really feel you need it.

April 19 2014 at 3:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I hope so

April 19 2014 at 12:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Billionaires' Tea Party, The
How Corporate America is Faking a Grassroots Revolution

Shortly after Barack Obama and a Congressional Democrats swept to power promising a new era of hope and change, a citizens protest movement emerged threatening to derail their agenda. The Tea Party was widely hailed as a exercise in grassroots democracy. But others saw it as a classic example of "astroturfing," a public relations charade designed to mimic a populist revolt. Curious to find out for himself, Australian filmmaker Taki Oldham decided to travel into the heart of the movement. The result is this astonishing look at how moneyed elites have been exploiting legitimate voter outrage to advance their own narrow interests. Oldham takes us inside town hall meetings where angry voters parrot insurance industry PR; finds "citizen groups" working to debunk climate change that are funded by big oil companies; and peels back a movement's down-home image to discover a coordinated network of right-wing shadow groups funded by the likes of billionaire ideologue Charles and David Koch. At once a record of our political moment, and a stunning case study in the power of public relations.

April 19 2014 at 11:19 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to koch_bot's comment

So says the Underwood dunce. LMAO

April 19 2014 at 4:37 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to progressivehoax's comment

So says the rest of the world dunce.

America in Decline: Why Germans Think We're Insane

The European Union has a larger economy and more people than America does. Though it spends less -- right around 9 percent of GNP on medical, whereas we in the U.S. spend close to between 15 to 16 percent of GNP on medical -- the EU pretty much insures 100 percent of its population.

The U.S. has 59 million people medically uninsured; 132 million without dental insurance; 60 million without paid sick leave; 40 million on food stamps. Everybody in the European Union has cradle-to-grave access to universal medical and a dental plan by law. The law also requires paid sick leave; paid annual leave; paid maternity leave. When you realize all of that, it becomes easy to understand why many Europeans think America has gone insane.

Der Spiegel has run an interesting feature called "A Superpower in Decline," which attempts to explain to a German audience such odd phenomena as the rise of the Tea Party, without the hedging or attempts at "balance" found in mainstream U.S. media. On the Tea Parties:

Full of Hatred: "The Tea Party, that group of white, older voters who claim that they want their country back, is angry. Fox News host Glenn Beck, a recovering alcoholic who likens Obama to Adolf Hitler, is angry. Beck doesn't quite know what he wants to be -- maybe a politician, maybe president, maybe a preacher -- and he doesn't know what he wants to do, either, or least he hasn't come up with any specific ideas or plans. But he is full of hatred."

The piece continues with the sobering assessment that America’s actual unemployment rate isn’t really 10 percent, but close to 20 percent when we factor in the number of people who have stopped looking for work.

Some social scientists think that making sure large-scale crime or fascism never takes root in Europe again requires a taxpayer investment in a strong social safety net. Can we learn from Europe? Isn't it better to invest in a social safety net than in a large criminal justice system? (In America over 2 million people are incarcerated.)

April 19 2014 at 10:50 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down

vote~~> http://www.teaparty-platform.com/ <~~ in 2014 n put a stop to obamits ~"WAR ON AMERICA "~ n his taxing the hell out of the middle class n get n keep the government out of our health care. !!

April 19 2014 at 10:40 AM Report abuse -5 rate up rate down Reply
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April 19 2014 at 10:29 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply